Six for the CyberRoad
originally published July 21, 1999 on http:www.travelthenet.com
copyright 1999 by Joe Harkins - all rights reserved
       Every week, speaking as JoeTravel, Omniscient Web Crawler and Baedeker to the Internet, I pontificate about online travel resources. I squeeze the search engines until the red lights on my modem start to look like a runaway UFO.

    Underneath it all, my opinions usually are supported by enough experience with the subject, or something sufficiently like it, to give me a foundation before I even start the research. Now I'm literally entering new territory.

    As this column is being published, I'm on my way to St. Vincent & Grenadines (www.turq.com/stvincent), a Caribbean nation near the equator. It covers a total of 133 square miles (smaller than Birmingham, Alabama) and has a population roughly equal to the number of people who work in the New York World Trade Center's twin towers. Some of its 32 islands are not much bigger than a ball field. On evidence of photos I've seen, it's an unspoiled paradise.

    I'll be based there for the rest of the summer as one of six persons chosen to serve Net Corp (www.destination.net/oas/) a project of the Organization of American States (www.oas.org/tourism). Net Corp is only superficially similar to the Peace Corp started in the early 1960s by John F. Kennedy. But both are founded on the theory that people working with people can accomplish more together than any combination of governments.

    The six participants, men and women, old and young, of various races, religions and national origins are fanning out through the Caribbean this week.

    Parastoo Zeraat, a talented Iranian-born woman starts out in St. Kitts & Nevis (www.interknowledge.com/stkitts-nevis/) and ends up in Antigua & Barbuda (www.interknowledge.com/antigua-barbuda/). Her specialty is web graphic design.

    Josef William, originally from Bombay, India and a recent Computer Science graduate, will focus first on St. Lucia (www.st-lucia.com).

    Brad Pierce, an internationally respected expert with academic training and field experience in eco-tourism, also will begin in St. Lucia, before moving on to Grenada (www.interknowledge.com/grenada).

    Gregg Watt (www.pressroom.com/~gwatt/index.htm) an award winning multimedia artist, nature photographer, documentarian and web specialist for National Public Radio, will be working in Belize (www.belize.com). He came to the US from South Africa.

    David Lenz, an established web site developer from Idaho, also will work in Belize. His itinerary will carry him on to another island whose official tourism web site is obscured by an annoying and gimmicky popup window, so we'll avoid that URL for now.

    The purpose of this particular Net Corp project is to gather information about Internet resources, access local needs, share Internet development information with local experts and support tourism partners in use of the Internet. If you've seen as many excellent Caribbean-based web sites as I have, you know there's no shortage of Internet experts in the Caribbean.

    I expect that I'll learn more than I'll deliver, but I'm hoping that all of us, especially operators of small to medium sized hotels and their tourist visitors, will benefit from the opportunities the web offers for communication and tourism promotion.

    Come share this adventure with us. Your ideas about services and information you want Caribbean web sites to provide to you are of great interest to Net Corp and its tourism partners. Email them to me (joe@travelthenet.com). I'll share them with the members of the team and our partners in those countries.

    You'll find a full list of the participating countries and links to a summary page for each at www.oas.org/tourism/turismoea/tourism/1index.htm. Yes, I know. When you click on a flag and go to a particular country's page, all that blinking and flashing of the menu labels is one of the dumbest ideas I've ever seen on a web site, but since I'm newly arrived on the project, I'm not going to say anything. Well, maybe I just did.

    Not that anyone in Net Corp can complain. They chose me for this project with their eyes wide open. Having read the archive of past Travel The Net columns, they know I'm not shy about my opinions.

    By the way, thanks to the miracle of the World Wide Web, these weekly Travel The Net columns will continue without interruption. Over the next six weeks, every once in a while, I'll let you know how things are going.

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